This is a picture of 100+ books that I recently sent out for one of my great clients. It’s a photo of some of the review copies he very thoughtfully put together. Review copies are essential for achieving any sales goals in publishing. While they don’t guarantee attention for a book, not sending them practically guarantees no attention.

What should you send?

Of course, sending review copies is expensive, so you want to be sure to target the proper audience. Many reviewers—be they journalists, critics, academics, or editors of review outlets—receive piles of books every day. How can you make yours stand out? You want to make it attractive, that’s why this package features a nice sticker on the outside of the envelope, as you can see in the photo. These envelopes are Uline’s Stayflat Mailers, which make a good impression. Then, as you can barely make out from the box in the back on the left, I used stamps.com‘s shipping labels, which have a professional look. Finally, the author and I put together an attractive and informative letter with good information about what’s included. All of this is a basic press kit that meets all the requirements for best practices. (The flowers stayed on the table.)

Who should you send to?

The best thing to do is be sure that the recipient is the sort of person who would be interested in your book. Have they written about the subject before? Do you have a personal relationship with them? Can you tell them in one sentence why they should care about your book?

I’ve heard it said that it’s not newsworthy simply that you’ve published a book. Thousands of books come out all the time. You’ve got to give people the angle. For example, if you live in a small town in Northern California, your local newspaper is going to be more interested in your book simply because you live there. The LA Times, meanwhile, won’t automatically care unless you give them a reason to, like you’re going to be in LA to promote the book at a library branch, and the subject of your talk relates to an important article they’ve just published.

What else should you know?

You also want to make sure that the people you send the review copies to have a place where they can get more information about your project. Most people haven’t carved out time in their day(s) to read random books they receive, but if what you’ve sent does appeal to them, they might spare a few minutes to look into what you’re up to. So you should make it very clear where they can get more information. A website (one that is mobile-ready) is the best resource here, because the recipient can check it out anonymously. And when they get there, you want to be sure you’re putting all the relevant information about you and the book front and center, in an attention-getting way.

That information should also be included with the review copy you send. Gather quotes from other people about your book. That adds credibility. If a reviewer sees that your book is getting attention, they’ll be more likely to invest their time in your work. Everyone wants to be part of a conversation, so show them that people are talking about your book! When you score a review, or even just a mention of your book, be ready to follow up with the people you sent review copies to. Tell them, “Hey, check it out, that book I sent you a couple weeks ago was just written about here.

These few paragraphs I’ve written here barely scratch the surface of the publicity question for your book, and I’m not a publicist. But if you want to speak in general terms about sending review copies, leave a comment, or feel free to get in touch with me directly.